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Audeze LCD2 Planar Magnetic Headphones

96% Positive Reviews
Rated #4 in Over-Ear

Posted

Pros: Natural, Fast, tonally rich, deep bass, seductive mids

Cons: i have to save up for them.

I felt extremely priveledged to be included in the first group of people to hear the long awaited and much anticipated release of Audeze's LCD2. Some history: I am not new to planar magnetic technology and have been an avid fan and disciple of planar magnetic headphones ever since I was lured into the murky waters by the vintage yamaha orthodynamic headphones. If not for the keen efforts of wualta on HeadFi, this dream would most likely not have been realised. I first heard about Audeze when a friend and fellow discple of orthodynamic headphones discovered this small company in California, managed to make contact with them and establish that initial dialogue which brought to us the LCD1 and now the LCD2. I really liked the LCD1, it was my first glimpse at what modern planar drivers were capable of. The LCD1 was a top performer and finally offered a modern headphone that had better performance than the venerable Fostex T50vx. It did most things that one would want from a headphone but finally didn't have the ability to reproduce the bass notes with the authority that they deserved. The LCD1 was

always aimed at being a market entry headphone with limited production, as it used an off the shelf foster frame and cup the biggest weaknss for these drivers in the end as they were more than capable of superb performance. The LCD2 is finally here to continue the promise from this dedicated company. An aside on Audeze - they have been very open to guidance from the experience of the headphone community and have worked hard to address most peoples concerns/requests in their development

process. I would be remiss if I did not mention the HE5 from HeadDirect. This is another planar magnetic headphone which made a surprise appearance at CanJam 09 and has garnered much popularity amongst headphiles. I have had the opportunity to hear 2 versions of this headphone, the earliest suffered some congestion on the bass and a peakiness in the upper mids, the later version had cleaned up the bass with some damping but the peak remained and although it was still a very good headphone, it still needed some fine tuning. I have not yet heard the HE5LE but this was version is supposed to address the concerns noted in the HE5.

 

Back to the LCD2.
Music chain - RED BOOK CD - Yamaha DVD1700(SACD) - highly modified Sonic Frontiers Transdac - direct coupled tube hybrid amplifier with class A mosfet output.


My music preference is vocal/acoustic/jazz/rock/blues/classical

 

Build quility:
Initial impressions on opening the box were very positive. My review sample did not come in the wooden box but that did not detract from my initial impressions. The black grills against the wood immediately caught my eye , not sure if they had me in mind when they were designing these but they sure had my attention. Weighing in at 1/2kg, these headphones leave you with both visual appeal and a tactile sense of anticipation. The overall engineering is rock solid. Steel sprung headband with metal ratchet type arm adjustments allow for a very sturdy feel. No slipping and no movement once they are positioned where you want them. The foam headband has caused a little stir of dissappointment in the community but make no mistake, they are very comfortable. They do not retain the impression of my sophisticted headphone stand ( a large hand clamp). The cups themselves are solid, lovely wood with a simple finish, as it turns out "Hand selected Caribbean Rosewood". The addition of the mini xlr is a welcome addition and offers an elegant solution to custom cable connectors of many manufacturers. The steel  rill is attractive and finishes the overall look of these headphones. Someone described them as "steampunk". The grill trills when you drag a nail over the surface but I cannot hear any resonance concerns with them. They also are able to screw off, allowing the more adventurous to modify and fine tune the sound to their liking. The Pads are substantial and offer great support and seal to create the soundscape that enables notes to be be free and create that ever important soundstage. I was a little concerned about how hard the leather was, but the lambskin do not sweat ( a huge negative of the stock O2 pads ) and they are more comfy than I had anticipated. You are most definitely aware that you are wearing a serious pair of headphones, none of this " I forgot I was even wearing them" but after 3 hours, I still felt comfortable.


I was told that these drivers had only had an hour of play on them and thus I anticipated the need for a little burn in. I naturally could not wait indefinately to hear them and I am not completely sold on the idea of prolonged burn in. To me if it takes 500 hours for a headphone to sound good to you, you have acclimated to the sound signature and learned how to appreciate it. But that is a can of worms for another debate. I had a few hours before I could sit down with them so I put on some white noise and let them warble.

 

The first night I just sat back and listened to them, I can normally pick up on idiosyncracies pretty quickly with casual listening. Nothing jumped out at me and I thoroughly enjoyed the following 3 hours, would I be a prat to say they had PRaT :).

 

The next round comprised listening to some white noise, pink noise and frequency sweeps ( stereophile editors choice test CD ) - subjectively there are no peaks, no inconsistencies, white noise is   homogenous , it extends both high and low.

 

Sound impressions:
An emphasis on impressions - subjective attributes based on personal preferences.

Treble:
I like my headphones to present a detailed top end with air and delicacy. This is evident in most all recordings. Live recordings sound just that, live. The acoustic space and pinpoint timing of a Jazz band is reflected in the percussion, ensuring a particularly intimate experience. Is it the most detailed ortho I have heard, no, some of my orthos are damped to  enhance the top end and moving from such an orthodynamic headphone to the LCD2, the initial reduction in top end energy is  noticeable but that feeling is soon replced by a sense of overall balance and enjoyment. I am sure there will be some who

would like a more pronounced top end, this is afterall a selfish hobby which promotes personal preferences but for me, these headphones offer a perfectly balanced sound.

 

Mids:
The mids are what particularly stand out for me. They have a rich tonal balance with no loss or emphasis, sound "organic" yet are not boring. They have a richness of tone that very few headphones or speakers redropuce, without sounding "lush".  There is no hint of sibilance and will bring even the toughest logger to his knees if he hears xxx (insert favourite female vocalist here) Not many  headphones reproduce the lower mids well as many headphones have a low mid upper bass bump - this directly impacts on the baritone and can often paint a muddled picture in this department. I listened to an assortment of recordings which focus on the voice within an acoustic space, I wish I could share this experience with you. Just breathtaking and absolutely natural.

 

Bass:
The downfall of so many great orthos - do you leave them slightly underdamped so that the bass throbs with a little less control than would be ideal or do you tighten it up so that the bass is several dB down but very tight and accurate. The LCD2 has no problem here - it just keeps going down. The acoustic bass of YoYoMa's cello on the Appalachian Waltz reverberates with multilayered bass that it transfixed me for the moment. I initially thought I heard some low bass warble but it turned out after much listening and reflection that I was hearing bass notes in the music which had never featured in my experience

of the music before. This was only on one particular electronica piece of music which I don't listen to ferquently but does extend the bass notes pretty low. Bach's Toccata's and Fugues sound vivid, Ulanji's bass drum virtuoso is thunderous and never did I feel the bass was congested or lacked definition. Tha bass is tight, punchy, fast and layered with all the texture of the mids. Does it sound as deep as the venerable TP , no, the TP's feel like they have greater impact but they are also closed and lose some of that depth and layering as a consequence.

 

Overall:
I have been modifying vintage orthodynamic headphones for some time and have a good feel for what I am trying to achieve when I start out with any given model. The LCD2 accomplishes many of these objectives and manages to retain an open soundstage  without compromising the depth of bass extention or delicacy of treble articulation and the mids are just "to die for". I knew that my time was coming to an end with this pair of headphones and my final wow came when I listened to a piece of

Scottish Folk music recorded by Linnrecords , William Jacksons CorryVrechan. It is a very dramatic piece of music with wide  dynamic swings, drums, bass, bagpipes, pennywhistle, just a lovely shamble of music. It was the perfect note to finish my experience as it left me feeling invigorated and so completely convinced that these headphones were a must have for my collection. I for one am convinced that this is the advance in magnetic planar technology that I had hoped it would be.

 

..dB

Posted

Pros: Tonal balance, low level listening, resolution, low distortion, Bass, godlike midrange

Cons: Need to save up..or rob a bank

 

Caveat 

I am an unabashed fan of orthodynamic headphones. Have been a dedicated orthohead for over two years now. All thanks to dBel84 for introducing me to some home made SFI driver based headphones at a meet. The Orthodynamic thread soon became a sanctuary and the folks who take part in the thread very close friends. We are dedicated group who share a passion for planar driven headphones and in our ideal world planar headphones would take back their rightful place at the head of the pack in audiophile headphone listening.         

 

    I have heard the best that the dynamic and electrostat headphones have to offer in the form of the HD800, T1 (not enough listening time however), PS-1000, Koss ESP950, Stax O2, lambda, SR-404 and they have all fallen short of what orthos can do.

 

 

Equipment

 

Amplifiers :

EHHA-2 prototype

EHHA-1

Stacker 2

ALO Rx

 

Sources :

Sonic frontiers TransDAC heavily modded

Assemblage DAC 2.7 heavily modded

Ipod

 

Reference headphone - Smeggy built Fostex T50RP woodies aka "Thunderpants"

 

 

 

Music

With my review playlist at the ready I sat down to put the LCD-2 through its paces. I listen to every kind of music in nearly every type of digital format. My playlist reflected this. I wanted to see how the LCD-2 would perform in an everyday situation for me rather than just running through some reference discs. Genres from Indie rock to Southern rock, Country and folk to hardrock and metal, from jazz to pop, with western classical and Indian Classical rounding up the list. Their formats ranged from Mp3s, FLAC to XRCDs and DTS-HD Master Audio recordings were.

           

Initial Impressions

When Don informed me that he had the newest Audeze LCD-2 in his possession and invited me over to a listen, I jumped at the opportunity. Being a planar fan through and through I was excited to see what progress Audez'e had made over the promising LCD-1 that I had owned. With Portland's very own M Ward's - Post war at the ready I arrived at his place. As Don brought out the headphones, my jaw dropped at the gorgeous headphones he held in his hand. With the limited time at hand, after ogling at the LCD-2s build quality he set me down with his system with a cup of coffee in hand and left me to run it through its paces. I sat mesmerized for a full 40 minutes listening nearly to the entire album. When I was done all I could remark to Don was, "wow, that is something else". Yes I was a bit at a loss for words unlike today writing this review. I had one of the best vintage orthos tuned by dBel84 and a pair of the Fostex T50RP woody thunderpants. I ran a few tracks again going back and forth between the headphones and came away with the conclusion the LCD-2 was clearly the better headphone. All from within 40 mins of listening to it. I did find a few 'faults' at first with the LCD-2. I commented that I felt the bottom end was a bit flabby and that the high frequencies weren't hot enough to my tastes. But overall the headphones were the first ones that sounded ultra refined with oodles of detail and yet remained musical to me. I thanked Don for the opportunity and reluctantly left.

 

A couple of days later kwkarth agreed to come over to my place with his review pair of the LCD-2s so I could listen to them on my rig. We spent well over an hour running through some reference material. We also got around to trying the LCD-2 out of a portable amp with an Ipod as a source. The ALO Rx amplifier + Ipod combo did a commendable job here and confirmed to me that the LCD-2s could after all be driven comfortably with a portable amp such as the ALO Rx. This is good news to those who plan on using these headphones on the go as well. The audition was still too hurried to form any compelling impressions and I persuaded Audez'e to let me borrow the LCD-2 from dBel84s for a few days. Much to my delight they agreed.

 

Build Quality:

Soon as I got home, i gingerly brought out the headphones. Like a voluptuous woman pining for some love, the LCD-2 screamed at my hungry eyes for attention, to reach and caress her curves. I admit, I did. The headband foam was nice and soft, the pads were of high quality leather, they had worn in nicely since the first time I tried them on. The mini-XLR jacks is something that all would agree to being made standard on high end headphones. The cable was a far cry from the thick unwieldy one on the LCD-1 and neatly terminated into a Neutral jack. To top it all off, I was ecstatic to see 4 screws in the back which give immediate access to the rear of the driver, the area of most interest for us orthoheads who like to tune and configure orthos to our tastes. The guys at Audez'e had clearly been paying attention to our wish list.

Holding the LCD-2s in your hand, you know its a high end product, the result of quality workmanship and sound engineering.

 

 

Does it have 'sachu' bass?

I am notorious to be very picky with the low frequency response on any system I listen to. I personally feel most people are only exposed to a flat monotonic bass note on headphones. Orthos opened my eyes and gave me hope that they can reproduce speaker like texturing in low frequency notes. This drew me back into the headphone scene. Whenever i try a new headphone I am instantly focused on the low frequency reproduction capability.

 

I like the low frequencies to be extended, tight, accurate in tonal reproduction and most importantly textured. Largely, orthos do a fairly decent job in this area albeit after a fair amount of tuning, but still end up compromising on one of the other areas. Having owned and heard the LCD-1 and sold primarily for its lackluster performance when it came to low frequency response I wasn't prepared to accept the fact that the LCD-2s could come anywhere close to the prowess of my reference TPs.

           

     First thing I tried was an Indian Classical piece From the album, The Valley Recalls - 2. The impact of the Ghatam was everything that I expected it to be. The tablas and Mrudangam were sounding surreal, quick with just the right impact. Some orthos veil the notes from how a Tabla or Mrudangam sound but the LCD-2 was a revelation here. I had to convince myself what I was hearing was right. I quickly switched back to my reference headphones and could make out that the "tok" sound on a tabla was sounding off, more like a "tick" on the Fostex thnderpants. back on the LCD-2 I just closed my eyes and enjoyed the amalgamation of 3 ancient Indian percussion instruments fire away in harmony. As the track reached its crescendo, the tabla master Zhakir Hussain furiously thumping way on the tablas while the mrudangam was trying to keep up the tempo, each and every note blended blissfully. I felt I was back in the First Unitarian Church in downtown Portland where they once performed a year or two ago.

          

        Next I tried some Electronica,Pop the Cherry and Currywurst by Aerodromme. Breakbeat drum and bass and electronica usually don't have ultra low frequency material. What i look for here is impact. On the EHHA, the LCD-2s were head pounding but lacking some definition. Switching to the Stacker 2, the definition got back, more tighter bass but the impact was not as great. I stuck with the Stacker 2 amplifier as for the first time, I was able to rock hard to Electronica and DnB and actually appreciate the details in the recordings which i once thought to be non-existent. One only expects the 4 by 4 beat in a DnB track to stand out , but with the LCD-2 it transforms the experience and gets a rave going in your head.

         

   On M Ward's "Poison Cup" and Patricia Barber's Companion album, I could actually feel the pads vibrating on the ultra low bass notes. The double bass was as real and as tactile as it can get. It was like an onion. You can keep peeling away layer after layer of bass. They one upped my much vaunted thunderpants in the low frequency reproduction in everything except the impact levels. The LCD-2 were just as effortless as the thunderpants throughout. Fabulous!

           

       One further thing that I noticed was that some notes sounded stunning different on the two headphones. I don't quite know how to explain this but the notes just sounded real on the LCD-2. I was stunned and disappointed at the same time. As much as I hate to admit it I felt let down by my reference headphones. I again attribute the LCD-2s prowess in recreating tonally accurate notes to its open design, not to mention what appears to meticulously tweaked driver to extract every little bit of ortho goodness available. For a closed headphone my reference headphones are still the best I've heard. But overall, the LCD-2 frankly walked away with the prize. My reference headphones were no competition to be fully upfront.

           

           

The all important midrange.

Midrange is the stronghold of nearly all orthos. No, your dynamic headphone or stat headphone just don't do it like an ortho and that's a fact. The dynamics lack the emotion while stats sound thin to these ears. Perhaps the only stat to come close to otho like sound in the midrange is the Stax O2 MK1. To date the best midrange I have heard on any headphone has been the ultra rare and venerable Yamaha Yh-1000. It gave me the first eargasm ever listening to Margo sing Sweet Jane. It is very hard to describe the emotional involvement that one goes through when one listens to something so superlative, one that hasn't been experienced before and try to put words to describe the feeling. Its just something you have to hear for yourself. But then the YH1K is so rare a headphone that only a handful have had the privilege. I like my vocals just a bit upfront so I raised my eyebrow when i saw the freq curve on the LCD-2 prior to listening to it thinking, hmm that doesn't look good for the midrange. That 6-10dB drop from 1kHz onwards is significant i felt.

 

Those first 40 mins laid any apprehensions I had to rest. Now M Ward is a handsome albeit short man with a voice that makes girls swoon. Listening to him sing "Rollercoaster" left me swaying too and thinking I could kiss the man, he is after all singing right in front of me. It felt so real, you could hear each and every breath he took between verses, the backup vocals were something I had never heard on my reference headphones in the "Eyes on the Prize" track, at least not as clearly. I could pick out 3 distinct voices in the background. I was dumbstruck. I knew then, this was it. We finally had a pair of headphones that could go toe to toe with the Yh-1000 and then some. The difference between the two is the ultra low distortion levels. Both have the same emotion and awestruck feeling that they leave in their wake. But, the LCD-2 goes one step further giving you the blackest of black backgrounds.

 

The track 'Good Ole Boys like me' By Don Williams brought me to tears. His silky smooth yet rough in a complex way reminded me why he was my favorite Country artist. To round up the male vocals test, i played Iron Maiden - Run to the Hills and Pantera's Cowboys from hell. Till date I never knew one could actually discern details in genres such as metal, that one could connect with the normally screeching vocals on an emotional level. With the LCD-2 it wasn't just mindless headbanging, but it was headbanging with emotion.

 

For female vocals i rifled through Loreena Mckennit - A Phrygian Moon and Mummer's dance first. The lovely Canadian's voice sailed through the blob sitting between my ears. The tonal accuracy is nothing like I have heard. I rang up Rachel Yamagata's "I'll find a way" to hear her Sweet nasal voice sending shivers down my spine just as it did once in a demo room at RMAF. I felt I was back at the Crystal Ballroom a year ago when I saw her perform live (even with a slight case of the flu, the poor dear). The LCD-2 was resolving enough to show some distortion in the music however which I was surprised by. As I had listened to this track so many times in so many high end systems that while it was barely noticeable on them, it immodestly stood out on the LCD-2. Margo is a favorite of mine and naturally any female vocals test I do involves Sweet Jane and Blue Moon Revisited. I felt like I could just die and go to heaven listening to her on the LCD-2. I was on such a high listening to the LCD-2 that i played Lisa Gerrad's 'Elysium' track on the Gladiator OST. One of the most moving pieces of cinema scores ever created and the LCD-2 didn't disappoint as it moved me to my core. To round up the female Vocals test the Companion album by Patricia Barber (XRCD) was played a full 4 times from end to end. Every time revealing more and more details in the midrange. Putting it simply, the midrange on the LCD-2 is godlike.

           

           

Man it feels good to get high..

As noted in the initial impressions, i felt the energy in the highs were a tad lacking. However, as I got to spend more and more time with the LCD-2, it was apparent that they in fact extended just as well as the best headphones without adding coloration, being absolutely neutral in reproducing source material as it should be. I did miss the leading edge on tracks like the 'Librarian' or on any of the metal tracks. The strength however lies in the LCD-2s resolving power. I thought my reference headphones were the best resolving orthodynamic headphones I had heard. Boy was I wrong. The LCD-2 made mince meat of them in this regard. For instance, you could hear every creak in "I'll find a way", the cymbals were lifelike. On M ward's 'Chinese translation', his power with an acoustic guitar was there in its fully glory, each string being plucked, his fingers sliding up and down the strings, On Don Williams track too, one could hear the guitar plucks being as close to lifelike as it can get. On My Morning Jacket's " Touch me I am going to scream. Part2" there are at various points where the keyboards come in and while the Fostex thunderpants clouded the consecutive notes, the LCD-2 picked them apart beautifully. 

 

Special mention for the Indian classical track. Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia on the bamboo flute and Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma on the ancient instrument the Santoor (hammered Dulcimer), two living legends coming together to create some of the best pieces of music ever played. Each strike on the santoor and its harmonics were reproduced seamlessly. There is this section of the track where Shiv kumar sharma ramps up the tempo on the Santoor (each strike being as precise and fast as a pinprick) and so does Hariprasad Chaurasia on the flute (increasing the pitch as well) blending the two instruments into something only the Gods could have scripted. The urgency in the tempo one feels yet calmness reverberated by the tonal qualities of the instruments strike a balance that i had never experienced before listening to this track.

 

 

Soundstaging

This is an area that most vintage orthos are severely handicapped at. I personally am not a soundstage freak. I don't want an area spanning a football field between my ears but enough to give breathing space for all the elements in an orchestra to come through without glazing over is fine. Even this modest task is mucked up by most vintage orthos. The other thing that most headphones and not just orthos suffer from is a fractured soundstaging, its not a seamless transition from left to middle to right.

 

 The only headphone I have heard do this superlatively has been the HD800 and it maintains this advantage over the LCD-2. However the upside on the LCD-2 is that there is actually enough of a soundstage. For example listening to The Battle - Gladiator OST you feel like you are actually there, the opening scene flashes before your eyes, you are there on the battle field, charging at them barbarians yelling "Roma Victor!". Listening to Rachael Yamagata singing "I'll find a way" I was transported back in time just as mesmerized to the Reimyo room at RMAF with the lights dimmed down. That feeling of immersion in the music was something I had never experienced with an orthodynamic headphone before. The open nature coupled with the transducer design is to be credited for this.

 

Imaging

Imaging to me is more important than soundstage. My reference headphones have a problem with imaging well cause of their closed nature. It falls short with complex music where instruments lose their focus and get mixed up. The one headphone that did this better than anything else was the Stax Omega 2 or O2 MK1. The O2 is superlative in this field. I was overjoyed when I could pick out each and every instrument in the Listen Up! DTS master audio recording. This is one of the hallmarks of these headphones and so easily noticeable that I made a comment to the effect to Don about it when I heard it the first time. When Omar Hakim(on drums) goes off on a solo in the dts recording I was spellbound listening to each instrument, the hi-hat, the cymbals, snare, tom toms and the kick drum all in their rightful spaces with room to breathe.

Switching to Loreena Mckennit's "Highway man", the complex jamboree of instruments in the mix filter through the music that made me aware of what instrument was playing where in the scene and importantly how it sounded. My reference headphones just utterly made a hash of it here.  I was hearing details in the background that I had never heard before, such as the backup vocals on M ward's "Post war" track.

Conclusion:  The LCD-2 was right up there alongside the O2 in imaging.

 

Hallmarks

Low level listening.

The LCD-2 is probably the best headphone I have had the pleasure of using for low level listening. Just for this reason alone I want to buy these headphones. Most headphones if not all that I have heard need to me to up the volume control knob to get full dynamic range reproduction. Not the case with the LCD-2 which translates to safer listening.

The LCD-2s retrieval ability at low listening levels is by far the greatest thing for me. How many times have you had to turn the volume down so your wife or gf wouldn't beat you in the head with your headphones cause you were disturbing her? For me its come close to being atleast once. It is frustrating listening to music at low levels simply because all, yes all headphones that I have listened to simply cannot sustain a full dynamic range at low levels. Some need to be turned up to hear and low frequencies notes at all, others make Margo of Cowboy Junkies sound like those American Idol wannabes.

But in comes the LCD-2, it makes it all seem so effortless at low volumes. There is all the low frequency extension, the shimmer in the highs and maintains that seductive midrange. I was sold on them after they kept me awake till 5 in the morning for two nights in a row of low level listening. This means my ears get to enjoy music without damaging for a very long time..maybe even till I am 40-50 years old. ;)

Nothing even comes close to it in this department.

 

What does this all mean to you and to me?

Staying true to the one and only rule of the audiophile world I will say trust your own ears. But if you don't know what you are hearing, then yeah just take my word for it. :)

 

The boys at Audez'e have come a long way since the LCD-1 that they released at last year's Canjam. To think a company's first real headphone product can sound as good as it does, look and feel good as good as it does just blows me away. These guys have undoubtedly put a lot of pain and effort, while all the time listening to the community for feedback and suggestions in bringing out the best they could offer. In my eyes and to these ears, they have surpassed every expectation by light years.

 

To me, the LCD-2 is the culmination of the end of a 3 decade drought for a true high end planar headphone that is well designed, well thought out, that can hang with the big guns of the stat world and then some. But, most importantly, it is one that has been tuned to perfection just like the only other ortho in my mind, the venerable Wharfedale Isodynamic that performs at its best from the get go. The Wharfedale was a revolutionary product in design and conception, the Audez'e is a fitting tribute to the pro-genesis of othodynamic headphones and is well poised to herald a resurrection of a once forgotten technology.

 

In Closing

While my reference headphones are brilliant sounding albeit being closed ones the LCD-2 comes along and says ..hang on there son..this is how you do it.

The LCD-2 has managed to show me that the rabbit hole indeed goes deeper. When I was feeling secure that my bleeding wallet had been patched up for good by my reference headphones, that I had reached a plateau with regards to how good a transducer can sound, that "this is it. It can get no better", the LCD-2 like an erupting volcano raised the bar into the stratosphere and in process made my wallet shrivel back in fear. I quickly realized that the asking price on these headphones was a pittance compared to the pure audio nirvana I was experiencing. Its a bit like watching Top gear with Jeremy Clarkson yelling "Power!!" while power sliding an angry yet sophisticated Ferrari V12 for the entire show. It brings forth the same fun, finesse and importantly, the soul and passion that the creator put into making these headphones. It makes you feel special. It makes you feel you are at one with the music, an extension of the audience Patricia Barber was singing to. The power of speed, detail, vividness in the low frequencies, the midrange seductiveness, its ability to ensconce you in the event that knocks on your eardrums and then make it all seem par for the course. Truly staggering.

I found myself scrambling through my music collection as the time to return them was at hand. As Jim James emotionally sang the last verses of track 8 on Evil Urges serenading his lady, the librarian, I found myself joining in, serenading the delightful little creature called the LCD-2, promising her that we'll be reunited soon.

 

"Simple Little Beauty, Heaven in your breath

Simplest of pleasures, the World at it's best"

Posted

Pros: Astonishingly good sound - among the very, very best

Cons: Comfort is only fair

Intro

 

Wow – another contender in the high-end headphone market!  Amazing.  I was pretty excited about the emergence of some planar magnetic headphones when I first heard about these and the HifiMan HE-5.  I was a Magneplanar speaker guy for many years – until my kids were born.  Loved them.  Sadly, they were too big a target for the kids, and so they got sold.  But I was very excited about being able to get some planar sound in headphones!  So excited that I rushed to pay just shy of $1,000 for the privilege…

 

They are very beautifully made, and ship in a beautiful wood box:

 

 

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Sources used for this review:    VPI Scoutmaster with Benz LP-S > Eddie Current Transcription phono amp, Audio By VanAlstine Fet-Valve Ultra-Dac (from Denon DVD-5900 or iPod and Wadia i170 serving as transports, and Assemblage jitter filter/re-clocking device); Red Wine Audio iMod iPod with ALO VCap dock.

 

 

Some observations about the LCD-2 though in terms of their ergonomics/design:

 

1. They are very attractive

2. They are pretty big

3. They do seem to clamp quite fiercely

4. The leather earpads are awesome

5. The headband though - just a piece of open-cell foam glued to the metal?  In a $1,000 headphone?  That is absurd.  It's comfortable, but there is no way that uncovered open-cell foam will last a year.  It's such a pity to mar the beautiful looks with the crummy open-cell foam.  Wrap it in some leather, Audez'e!  C'Mon!  I would much rather have a leather headband and a cardboard box than the beautiful wood box they included.  I'm already trying to figure out how I will fix this.  Some leather, some snaps, and some trial and error...

 

 Anyway, after some stretching and some adjustments, the LCD-2 are no longer uncomfortable.  I would call them "comfortable", but not “very comfortable”, really, but at least they aren't actually UNcomfortable anymore.  I can wear them for quite a long while without issue.  But they set no benchmarks in this regard.

 

Another ergonomic issue - I cannot turn my head from side to side wearing these very easily, due to the stiffness of the cable combined with the length of the connector.

 

 

Amping the Beast

 

Well, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that with the Leben CS300X, the LCD-2 is absolutely astonishing.  The Leben with the LCD-2 provides a level of sound quality I have not personally experienced before from headphones. I've spent many late hours just excitedly going from  track to test track. All of them have been a treat. It really has to be heard to be believed.

Now the bad news - the LCD-2 exhibit, to some degree, a slightly rolled off treble with all of my OTL tube amps. I actually first thought the LCD-2 had a rolled off treble. It doesn't. But when used with OTL tube amps that have an output impedance higher than the LCD-2’s impedance, the treble is rolled off. With the transformer-coupled Leben - no roll off at all. Just open, clean, super-transparent and super-smooth. And I mean WIDE open sounding. Great detail without any etch or force. And the soundstage is astonishing.

Vexed a little by this, I spent some time with the LCD-2 on the Meier Concerto. It has plenty of juice to drive them for sure, and no treble roll off for sure (got to love that 0.1 ohm output impedance).   The Concerto and the LCD-2 are a good pairing.  The sound is very nearly as good as I described above with the Leben - not quite, as the Leben is the better amp IMO, but for the money, the Concerto is excellent, and the sound from the LCD-2 via the Concerto is open, transparent, and extended as it was on the Leben.  The soundstaging is also excellent on the Concerto, although here again I think the Leben has a slight edge.

But not so much on either the Decware CSP-2 or my modded Singlepower Extreme. The LCD-2 sound very good on those amps, but not as good as they are capable of sounding. With the Leben - they are just amazing.  The roll-off with the CSP-2 isn't as noticeable as I originally thought.  Once I had a lot of time to spend with them, and I was able to try a bunch of different things, I ended up feeling that the LCD-2 are best with the Leben, and second best with the SS Meier Concerto, but the CSP-2 does a pretty good job, really.  And just for grins I tried them with the J Sound Lab Headphone, which, while pretty cheap, is transformer coupled, and actually sounded pretty good with the LCD-2 at reasonable levels.  The only amp that I have that will not work at all with the LCD-2 is the RSA Stealth, which just distorts at even moderate levels - which I found very surprising, as it did very well with the 70 ohm DX1000.  But it is what it is.

 

So in sum on amps, the Singlepower Extreme and the Decware CSP-2 had enough power for the LCD-2, but with slightly rolled off highs (and probably some other slight frequency response aberrations due to the impedance mismatch that were just less obvious).  Just to be clear, all of these amps drive the Beyerdynamic T1 very, very well.  But they did a less good job with the LCD-2.  Strong solid-state or a high-quality transformer-coupled tube amp will be needed, or an OTL tube amp that has been designed with a very low output impedance (of which I am not aware of very many...) to get the best of what the LCD-2 can offer.  The sound with the Decware CSP-2 was plenty good, really – just not what the LCD-2 are ultimately capable of, and if you’re going to pay almost $1,000 for a headphone…you want to get the most out of them. 

 

What's fascinating about the LCD-2 is that it actually requires less volume from my CSP-2 than the HE-5LE does.   The LCD-2 also requires more volume from the CSP-2 than the T1, but this does not surprise me.  And I was also a little surprised that the LCD-2 brought the Stealth completely to its knees, even though I know that it isn't meant for super-low impedance cans.  I need to try my impedance-matching transformer and see what that does.

 

Quirky beast the LCD-2.  Pickiest headphone about amplification I have had.  I don't want to overplay this - the LCD-2 still sound good with the SP Extreme and the Decware CSP-2 - just not as good as they can sound.  But given that they did not work at all with the Stealth, they will not be a "buy them and use them with whatever amp you own" kind of headphone.  Paired with the right amp, though, the sound is remarkably natural and lifelike - very impressively so.  So be warned - amp matching will be critical.

 

 

The Sound

 

I listened several  nights WAAAAAY past my bedtime - that combo, the LCD-2 and the Leben was just amazing me - the soundstage especially was the best I ever recall hearing.  I wish I had the HD800 to compare - I have a feeling the soundstaging capability of the LCD-2 is even better than the HD800, which formerly is the best I have ever heard.  The LCD-2 as heard through the Leben puts a truly holographic soundscape out a little in front of the listener with a depth and width I do not recall getting before, and in an unbelievable natural way.  The delicacy of the treble on the LCD-2 is something special too. It has a purity, nuance, and articulate combined with a complete lack of fatigue or etch. It’s pretty special in this regard.

 

I can say, however, that some people will not like the treble balance.  I think it is absolutely spot on, neither soft nor bright, but for people who like their treble W5000-style, the LCD-2 will not play. I, on the other hand, do not like to have the highs forced on me, and so I am like the balance on top.  In fact, it's very hard for me to understand how some people who were HD800 fans like the LCD-2 so much.  It's definitely a different tonal balance from that.  Super-smooth, lots of detail, and ultra-natural sounding, with great transparency.  But not at all fatiguing or hyper-analytical.  Very subtle instruments, like the triangle strikes in Carbon Leaf’s “Let Your Troubles Roll By” were very easy to hear without being overly emphasized in a way that I felt the HD800 presented that sort of thing.  Effortless, and natural – I kept thinking this.

 

There is something to the planar treble that seems to lack a grain that all dynamics have, even if you don’t realize it’s there.  I had thought the Beyerdynamic T1 wad a completely grain-free treble.  And while it is indeed very transparent, the LCD-2 is even cleaner and more pure than the T1.  The T1 does have a treble balance most similar to the LCD-2 of all my dynamics – but the LCD-2 is slightly more refined and detailed, while being slightly smoother too.  A neat trick!

 

Down low, things are equally as impressive. The bass on the LCD-2 (again via the Concerto and/or the Leben) is really quite something.  It doesn't call attention to itself until required by the recording, but then it is reproduced full measure.  No lack of texture or definition, either - outstanding performance in that regard, in fact.  The bass notes in Goldfrapp’s “Koko” from “Supernature” were powerful, but had great nuance and texture.

 

I decided to test the bass response of the LCD-2.  I tested both the LCD-2 and the Ed 8, using the Stereophile test CD 3, and my SPL meter, set for "C" weighting, which accounts for the Fletcher-Munson roll-off.  The LCD-2 was shockingly flat to 25 Hz - measuring right around 72dBC from 200-25 Hz - only the 20Hz tone was rolled off, and even there by only about 4 dB.  I could not HEAR 20 Hz from these headphones, but I don't think people can really hear 20 Hz via headphones, because you really feel 20Hz more than hear it, and headphones don't really allow for this.  I could hear the 25 Hz tone very clearly from the LCD-2.

 

By way of comparison, the Ed 8 I felt like I could actually hear 20 Hz a little more, but it might have just been doubling.  It measured a little less flat, but still +/- 4 db from 200-20 Hz.  Note that I made no attempt here to measure the relative bass levels between the LCD-2 and Ed 8 – I was just measuring the two for bass extension and smoothness.

 

 

Here again, however, some people will find the bass from the LCD-2 to be too much.  It absolutely does not color the rest of the spectrum, but I have been around head-fi long enough to know there is a large faction that thinks that accurate bass is a lot less bass than I personally think is natural.  This is an age-old argument – which part of the hall do you like?  The W5000 is front-of-hall – bright treble and very restrained bass.  The HD800 is mid-front.  The T1 and the LCD-2 are mid-hall.  The JVC DX1000 is mid-back.  You pays your money and you takes your choice.  I’m a mid-hall kind of guy, I guess.  But if you think the W5000 have an ideal bass balance, the LCD-2 will not be for you.

 

And then there is the midrange.  It’s just as natural as you could possibly hope for.  Again, ahead of my rather esteemed pack of headphones – T1, Edition 8, D7000, DX1000, W1000X – better than all of these, for sure.  Amazing transparency, and an almost fascinating degree of naturalness – this was really kind of a revelation, because I didn’t just respect the mids – I loved them – and yet there was no coloration there I could detect at all.  The Beyer T1 sounds a tiny bit artificially ripe in comparison, but not in a way that means the LCD-2’s mids are in any way thin – far from it.  The T1 are terrific in the mids – but the LCD-2 are slightly better.  Female vocals were really wonderful – I was shocked when listening to Nightwish’s “Ocean Soul” – it was almost as if I’d never heard the song correctly played back before.  Mary Black’s cover of Richard Thompson’s “I Misunderstood” from her “Shine” record was also enthralling for it’s incredibly unforced, natural presentation.

 

And oh, the soundstage.  So deep, so wide, and so well defined – and not only between the ears, but out in front of the head.  No question the best of any of the headphones I have.  Perhaps the HD800 is as good or better – since I no longer have them I don’t feel I can accurately say.  But the imaging qualities of the LCD-2 are terrific.  For someone who really values a holographic soundstage highly, the LCD-2 are sure to please.  Listening to some live Alison Krauss was enthralling – it felt so much like the performance was really going on it was a little spooky.  This effect was more noticeable with the Leben than the Meier, but it was definitely there with both.

 

 

Comparisons

 

Compared to the HE-5LE, I can confirm that the LCD-2 require less juice from my amps than the HE-5LE do.  The HE-5LE do not seem to have the same issue with being rolled off in the treble by my OTL amps, though.   As much as I like the HE-5LE, with the right amp, the LCD-2 is a significant step above the HE-5LE in terms of performance (although not ergonomics - I find the HE-5LE to be more comfortable).  The HE-5LE are excellent.  The LCD-2, talking just about sonics, are superlative.  I think the HE-5LE provide a huge taste of planar goodness for a relatively affordable price, and they are highly competitive in their price range.  But the LCD-2 are more neutral, more transparent, and more nuanced.  That isn’t an indictment of the HE-5LE as much as praise for the LCD-2.

The LCD-2 versus the Beyer T1 is more interesting.  The T1 is outstanding IMO.  It is also infinitely more comfortable than the LCD-2, again IMO of course (like this whole review!).  And the overall spectral balance is somewhat similar.  The T1 seems a little lush in comparison, and somehow just slightly less immediate.  As mentioned above, it’s also just slightly less transparent.  Being 600 ohm, it will mate better with some amps than the LCD-2, and as such, will be a better choice in some systems, and it’s close enough in performance that I wouldn’t toss a T1/high-end amp combo that sounds great in favor of trying the LCD-2.  But if you have a great solid-state or transformer-coupled tube amp, then the LCD-2 might synergize better than the T1 – perhaps. 

 

I would rate them for sound: LCD-2 > T1 > HE-5LE - but they are all truly excellent sounding

 

I would rate them for comfort: T1 > HE-5LE  > LCD-2 - the T1 and HE-5LE being very comfortable, and the LCD-2 being just fair (but after some break in no longer truly UNcomfortable).

 

 

Conclusion

 

So what are the LCD-2?  A fairly expensive, high-end headphone that offers absolutely world-class sonics, is picky about the pairing amp, looks beautiful, and is only somewhat comfortable.  So where does that leave them?  I will certainly be keeping the pair I bought.  But it’s not a no brainer to plunk down a kilobuck when there are a few gotchas.  I suggest trying to find a way to hear a pair – but also to have them on your head for a while, if possible.  And you’ll need to read a lot of opinions here on head-fi about what amps will work well.  But given these caveats – the LCD-2 is pretty impressive.  It has delivered some true musical magic for me.

Posted

Pros: Beautiful Design, Velvet top end, tight full bass. Mids to die for.

Cons: There Are None!

I have been reading these forums for over a year now. I feel like I should give back. They have helped me quite a lot. I thank Ken Ball for steering me here. He has been my guru on this quest for digital/personal/audio heaven. 

I record and make music for a living. I love great sounding records. There is nothing more frustrating than listening to a great sounding record on a wretched sounding rig. You know it sounds good. It sounded good on your CD player in your car? Ugh. The iPod has been a savior and a demon in one swoop.

The search begins. A lot of you came here looking for it. I imagine a lot of you have been Hi-Fi fanatics since you can remember. This is all a set up just tell you my impressions of the LCD-2's...

It took me years to get to my Ultrasone Edition 8's & my HD800's. I won't go into my rant on the 800's but if you read the reviews you will see why people love or wish they could love them. I think they are a lot of work to listen to. The high end wears me out. The Edition 8's are excellent. They are great when I am flying because they offer some isolation.

For reference I have a AOL RX & The SR71-a. 240gb mod. The cabling is all Ken Ball at ALO Audio.

Ken owns a pair of the LCD-2's and sent them to me for a night to put them up against my cans and The T1 as well.

I pulled the LCD-2's out of the box and grinned ear to ear. Ok these are the coolest retro, vintage, steam punk, DIY Mad Max phones I had ever seen. Like something my Dad would have had in '71 sitting next to his new cassette player. I told Ken in an email. Looks do matter. If we are going to walk around with these big clunky things on our heads we want to look as cool as possible. Ok, that's a small part of it but I bring it up because I pulled the T1's out right after it and was really underwhelmed.

I am a portable guy. I travel constantly. I like to have a lot of different music to listen to & I want it to sound as good as humanly possible.

I plugged the LCD-2's in and I was blown away. Out of the box, the first time ever I just listened to the music. I did not have my attention on the top end or were they bass shy? No, just no. They sounded great!

I listened to the Robert Plant & Allison Krauss record. Warm, lush, defined. I was in it. I felt like I was there in the room with the musicians. I listened to records I had produced. Nothing jumped out at me like so many times before. I seem to always have issues with EQ or the stereo field. Not so here. These phones love electric guitars & vocals. This is where so many phones fail. I went on to listen to Classical, Jazz, World, House you name it. It was all ear candy.

I know this is not a technical review. I will leave that to to the guys who can better explain it. This is for the guys that are turning up to find a way to get those files on their little devices to sound better. Do yourself a favor, do your homework. Get the best that you can get. No scratch that go one more than that. You will save in the long run. I have a drawer of road kill. Pre amps, cables & headphones. 


I could say get this amp, get that cable. (Ok, go to ALO & look at Ken's cables) Everyone has different preferences. I bet it will be hard to find people who once have heard these headphones can't all agree that they are some of the best ones out there. For my money the buck stops here.

Funny thing is I don't even own a pair yet but it is not for lack of trying. I am bugging everyone. I want no scratch that I need these headphones.

If you are in the music business I think this is the perfect reference headphone. I think these days a bigger majority of people listen to music on headphones. The people in the business have to start mastering & mixing things with that in mind. Walk down the street. Most the kids you see have a pair of white ear buds sticking out of their head :) Times have changed. For us bigger kids we have gone past the funky ear bud. We are on to bigger and better things and so are Audez'e.

Line up everyone. These guys are on to something.

Monotune

 

I have to amend this review. By some Miracle Alex got me a pair. I had to send Ken's back but here I am right now listening to my own pair. The customer service alone is worth the price. These cans are every bit as good as the ones I had borrowed. Actually better. They are mine all mine.The pair I was sent was a lot lighter than Ken's for whatever reason. So I amend this review they are not heavy in fact quite comfortable. Also I bought ken's modified cable for these and it is genius. Really to my liking. It is a bit more open than the stock cable. Excellent!

Posted

Pros: Full-bodied sound, extended bass, non-fatiguing sonic signature

Cons: Very slightly recessed mids, physically heavy, slightly sloppy craftsmanship, odd design decisions

It's been about a month since I've received my Audez'e LCD-2 headphones (after being on the waiting list for almost three months). It's currently one of the most praised high-end headphones on the market, and before I jump into the review, I'll just get straight to the bottom line--it is a fine pair of headphones, but it's not without issues.

Here's what the LCD-2 looks like:
lcd2-1.jpg

lcd2-6.jpg

lcd2-0.jpg

Cosmetics & Ergonomics
First of all--the build is excellent. It looks every bit the high quality hand-made product that it is, but it has a quirky problem--one of the earcups came out of the frame upon arrival and my heart sank for a moment, but a quick look revealed that it was designed to be able to come off very easily if you simply pull on the anchoring frame a little, and it's very easy to put it back in. While this makes it easy to take the earcups off, it also means it can happen by accident if you simply pull on the headphones a bit hard from the wrong angle. No other headphone I've ever used had this problem, where it literally comes apart easily. It's sort of a blessing at the same time since it's easy to take the earcups off to run audio tests one channel at a time (but obviously, this is something only total audio geeks would do):
lcd2-8.jpg

The actual earpads are very comfortable, but because leather (or pleather) can get sweaty after a while, I always have sanitary covers on all my headphones, including the Sennheiser HD650 with velour earpads (since it protects the earpads from getting worn out). Here's without the sanitary covers:
lcd2-2.jpg

Here's with sanitary covers:
lcd2-7.jpg

My earpads don't match since the right side is 0.6cm thicker, but it doesn't affect the sound--just looks a bit lopsided. They also put in the cable sockets with the wrong orientation on the right side too, making the cable twist a bit on the right side. Minor issues, but slightly annoying since this is a $1,000 pair of high-end headphones and I expected more careful craftsmanship. I wonder why they didn't use metal or plastic parts where the frame's anchoring points inserts into the wooden cups though--they just dug out the wood, which looks a bit too hand-made for comfort to me--I'd prefer they installed metal parts into the wood so that there's no danger of the wood cracking or chipping. I also don't understand why they'd use an open-cell foam on the headband--it just doesn't look very durable since the edges could peel off eventually (like it did on my Sennheiser HD555 after a few years), and it's also terrible for sanitary reasons. Hair has oil and dirt and other stuff that you don't want to get caught in the cell of the foam. They really should have sheathed the foam under a cover for the headband--something like pleather or leather since it's much easier to wipe those clean. The Sennheiser HD650's foam is covered with fabric, and even that inspires more confidence than just bare foam. The cables on the LCD-2 are also awkward since they are stiff have long connectors, and they will poke into your shoulder if you look down. The main cable is also the stiffest headphone cables I have ever seen--they are basically typical thick instrument cables, and all musicians hate instrument cables because we're constantly coiling and uncoiling them all the time and they can be a bit unruly.

In terms of isolation, the LCD-2 is an open-backed design, so you will hear outside sounds--in fact the LCD-2 is one of the most open headphones I have ever heard. Usually open-back headphones still muffle the clarity of outside sounds a little, while the LCD-2 changes the outside sound only very subtly. I personally much prefer open-back designs since not only is the sound a lot more natural and not so claustrophobic like closed-back designs, you can also hear when people talk to you, or when the door bell rings (but they can also hear your music clearly too--it just sounds like a tinny version from a small radio). But of course, if you really need isolation, then only closed-back or IEM's will do.

Here's the whole package and the wooden box:
lcd2-box.jpg

lcd2-package.jpg

lcd2-5.jpg

The overall visual sensibility of the LCD-2 is the steampunk look, which is quite appealing if you dig that style (I do). It's similar to the Hifiman HE-5, the other currently popular orthodynamic headphone, combining wood, naked metal, and painted metal.

The comfort level of the LCD-2 is just fine in general. It's a lot heavier than most headphones (up to 2x or 3x heavier), but it's very comfortable in a snug, substantial way that inspires a sense of security, like how when you hold up something of quality and it weighs a bit but feels very solid and secure. That's how it feels on my head--solid, secure, snug, yet very comfortable. It's no less comfortable than all the other headphones I have, despite being significantly heavier; however, its weight will take its toll after prolonged listening--you'll start to feel it, while with really light headphones like the Denon AH-D7000 or very comfy headphones like the HD555, you pretty much forget you are wearing headphones until you stand up and they are accidentally ripped off your head.

One other small issue with the weight is that because it's so heavy, if you hang the LCD-2 on a typical headphone stand where the entire weight of the headphone rests in the middle of the headband, then the foam on the headband will become compressed in that spot. Some LCD-2 owners just rest it flat on a thick piece of fabric due to that issue, but I don't really have flat surfaces to spare, so I improvised and DIY'd a modification on my headphone stand with some old socks:
lcd2-sockmod.JPG
See how the hanging surface now is almost as wide as the entire headband, and the weight is now evenly distributed? This way, the foam won't compress severely in just one tiny spot like with typical rods that many headphone stands use.

Sound
First of all, take a look at this frequency graph of the LCD-2 (all graphs are taken from measurements done by Tyll Hertsens, formerly owner of HeadRoom--one of the most popular headphone and amp retailers):
lcd2-FR.jpg

That's pretty amazing, isn't it? From 1KHz to 20Hz, it is almost ruler flat. It is extremely rare for any headphone to achieve that kind of linear and neutral frequency response--in fact the LCD-2 is the only one I've ever seen that can do it to that degree. (All LCD-2's are shipped with its own individual graph, showing you how your particular pair tested. Mine looks similar enough to the one above that it's not necessary to post it.)

Now, look at how a 30Hz square wave looks on the LCD-2:
lcd2-30Hz.jpg

Now, look at how a 300Hz square wave looks on the LCD-2:
lcd2-300Hz.jpg

That is also very impressive--the square wave is reproduced so cleanly and with very little distortion.

If you compare the LCD-2's measurements with the out of production, very expensive, and legendary Sony Qualia, you'll be shocked to see just how laughly bad the Qualia's audio quality is compared to the LCD-2:

Sony Qualia frequency response graph:
sony_qualia-FR.jpg

Sony Qualia 30hz square wave:
sony_qualia-30Hz.jpg

Sony Qualia 300hz square wave:
sony_qualia-300Hz.jpg

Pretty horrendous frequency response and distortion for a "legendary" high-end headphone, eh? Not even a fraction as good as the Audez'e LCD-2, and costs more than twice as much when it was in production, and now even more since it's been discontinued and elevated to mythical status.

While all that is great on paper, how does the LCD-2 actually sound? Overall, the LCD-2 has a full-bodied sound, but it is not slow, too heavy or too lush. The bass is extended and sounds neutral without any bloat, while being authoritative and substantial. The mids are smooth and clear, but it's recessed around the 2KHz~3KHz region for about -3dB, which results in the LCD-2 sounding a bit too polite in some cases--especially when it comes to the bite of distorted electric guitars, the snap of the snare drum, or the power of the brass section. I usually EQ that region a little to restore that little bit of brightness. Here's how I EQ the LCD-2:
lcd2-EQ.jpg

The treble of the LCD-2 is just fine. It's articulate and detailed, never too exaggerated or too dark, and very natural sounding.

One very important characteristic I care about the most in audio reproduction gear is that it cannot be fatiguing and offensive, and the LCD-2 has no such problems at all. It isn't excessively bright and fatiguing, nor does it have overwhelming bloated bass, or exaggerated upper-mids that causes annoying sibilance. If anything, I wish the 2KHz~3KHz region didn't have that -3dB of recess, but it's very easy to correct with a simple one-band EQ compensation. If I'm watching a movie or playing a video game where I can't apply surgical DSP processing via software, I actually don't ever notice the slight recess and in fact welcome it since it makes prolonged listening very pleasant. Truth is, if I didn't A/B the LCD-2 against my other headphones or my reference studio monitors (Klein + Hummel o 300D's), I probably would not have noticed that slight recess, although I'd probably note the somewhat polite presentation on aggressive music that has lots of energy in the 2KHz~3KHz region.

Anyway, I could go on listing all the music and test tones I used to put the LCD-2 through its paces, but I listen to some very obscure and eclectic choices of music, so describing them in detail would be meaningless to most of you. If you must know, you can just search head-fi forums for my posts in the official LCD-2 thread. In that thread I even posted the tracks I used to test the LCD-2, and which sections to listen to in order to hear that slightly recessed mids.

Final Thoughts
For about $1,000, the LCD-2 might be too expensive for some people, and the truth is, you can get pretty close to the sound quality of the LCD-2 while spending a lot less. The Sennheiser HD650 for example is an excellent pair of headphones, costing less than half of the LCD-2. The HD650 does just about everything right, except its sub-bass isn't as substantial as a full-range speaker system with subwoofer. It's really only from around 35Hz and lower that the HD650 is rolled off though, while in rest of the frequency response it performs very well and is one of my favorites. It's actually kind of hard for me to say if the LCD-2 is all that much better than the HD650 in terms of value (but in terms of sonic signature, the LCD-2 is definitely a class above, being more refined, balanced, and full-bodied), since both have a singular issue in its frequency response--the LCD-2 in the mids and the HD650 in its sub-bass. The Denon AH-D7000 costs a lot more than the HD650 too but it's certainly not better--at least not to me. Whether you think the LCD-2 is worth the price of admission depends on what you prize the most in a pair of headphone's sonic signature.

As the result of getting the LCD-2, I have sold my Denon AH-D7000. While the D7000 can sound very satisfying when EQ'd to compensate for it's recessed mids, sibilant upper-mids, and exaggerated treble, I just couldn't justify keeping another high-end headphone similar in price to the LCD-2, especially when I would never use it for movies and gaming since I can't apply software DSP processing to it (and buying a high-quality hardware EQ unit just for that purpose seems a bit too much of a waste). Also, needing three bands of EQ to make it sound great is two-bands too many for me. I will definitely miss that visceral and grin-inducing bass though, even if it's a bit exaggerated.

When I decided to purchase the LCD-2, I was hoping it would sound similar to the Stax SR-007 MK2 that I heard months ago when I was in Taiwan--it was one of the most memorable "eargasm" experiences I've ever had, and it was my first experience with an electrostatic system. I was mislead to think the LCD-2 can come close because some members at head-fi had compared the LCD-2 favorably to the flagship Stax rig. I'm tempted to say those guys are smoking something powerful because the LCD-2 to me does not compare to the magical flagship Stax sound, but sonic preferences are very subjective, so maybe to them the LCD-2 really is that magical. Also, I have never A/B'd the two side-by-side, so until I do, I can't say for sure. But at this point my hopes of saving the thousands of dollars I'd need to spend on the flagship Stax rig by getting the LCD-2 was dashed. I bought it without having auditioned it in person--this is just how it is when you live in a crappy city in China--you must rely on other people's reviews and hope to God they have similar taste to yours. While the LCD-2 sounds great, it was probably a bit naive of me to think it could sound like a flagship electrostatic--the two technologies are inherently different after all.

 

Obviously I like the LCD-2 a lot, otherwise I'd have turned around and sold it immediately to recoup my money, since the LCD-2 is very hot right now and the waiting list is about two to three months. I have ordered the Stax SR-007MK2 and the SRM-717 solid state energizer/amp, and they should be coming in about a week or so. I'll decide after I have spent some time with the new Stax rig if I'll be selling off any more of my headphones.

 

EDIT: Now that I have had the Stax rig in my studio for a while now and have A/B'd the LCD-2 against it extensively, I have written a detailed review of the Stax rig. In the review, I go into detail about how the LCD-2 compares with the Stax rig. You can read the review on this page: http://www.head-fi.org/products/stax-sr-007-mk2/reviews#3796

 

If you don't want to read the detailed review of the Stax rig, I'll simply say this--the LCD-2 compares very well, and in some ways they do share a similar sonic signature, but they also have important differences.

 

The similarities:

They both have a full-bodied sound, with authoritative bass, refined mid-range, and articulate treble. They both have slightly recessed mids and upper mids, which contributes to the warmer sonic signature. They both are non-fatiguing and remain pleasant during long listening sessions.

 

The differences:

The LCD-2 is overall denser and creamier, with lower bass extension, while the 007mk2 has punchier bass and more prominent treble, while having a more elegant presentation.

 

Both are excellent, and I would rate them similarly in terms of overall sound quality. In terms of comfort, the Stax is a more comfortable due to the lighter weight.

 

EDIT (August 15, 2011): I have been refining and tweaking the LCD-2's custom EQ curve, and the one I have been using for a while now is this one:

2011-08-15_101239.png

 

When Audez'e released the rev.2 version of LCD-2, the updated frequency response graph really surprised me (in a good way), because it looked almost exactly like the response of my custom EQ curve. That tells me Audez'e agrees with my assessment of the LCD-2 and updated it accordingly.

Posted

Pros: Incredible bass/mids with a true to life sound

Cons: Heavy and treble at times can be slightly recessed.

So I've had my pair for around a month and they have very quickly shown themselves to be deserving to be amongst some of the very best headphones I've ever heard.

 

Bass:
Absolutely the best bass of any headphone I've ever heard. Deeper, more defined and controlled than anything out there. The amazing thing is just how scary good it is and with ZERO bleeding into the mids.

 

Mids:

Along with the T1s, I consider the LCD-2's mids to be the best I've ever heard as well. Both male and female vocals excel exceptionally well with them. Incredibly organic and upfront with outstanding detail, presence and still very musical.

 

Treble:

Very nice treble, but with some of my recordings, they can seem a bit recessed and set the cymbals too far back in the sound stage. But definitely not a show stopper in any way. With other recordings, the treble is full of life and energy. So it could simply be the great transparency of these headphones showing what is on the recording.

 

Sound stage:

I would rank the sound stage capabilities of the LCD-2s right after my two current favourites (HD800 and T1...in that order). They do portray the sound stage in a very life like way and in proper proportion left to right and front to back. But when compared to the HD800s and T1s they are slightly behind.

 

Comfort:

This area is not a concern to me in anyway, but as I find the HD800s very comfortable and the T1s/D7000s comfortable, I find the LCD-2s adequate...but still heavy. The one kink in their chain.

 

Value:

What can I say, they are 30% and 40% less than the T1s and HD800s respectively, but in quality they are on par (and in many areas even better). Great value IMHO. Their build and construction is simply outstanding and exude $1000+ quality!!!

 

Amazing job by a 2 year old company to come out with a product that competes with the "big boys" in the industry...beyerdynamics, Sennheiser, Grado, Ultrasone, etc... that have all been around much, much longer. Congratulations to Audeze!

Posted

 

Here are my impressions of the LCD-2 r.2   I will refer to the latest LCD-2 Revision2 as r.2 from this point on.

 

The r.2 has a thinner newly developed faster diaphragm and this new development has impacted the LCD in very beneficial ways in every aspect of its performance.  There is now more upper frequency extension than previous, this does not appear to be an increase or boost in treble amplitude but more an increase in the range of the r.2 itself in terms of portrayal and response.  Tonal characteristics of the r.2 are the same but the tonal range has been extended into the upper frequencies.  This upper frequency extension means more noticeability in that area and the key here is not an increase in treble amplitude, not an infringement of treble upon the sonic characteristic of the LCD as many have feared and speculated, but an increase in resolution and clarity from the new driver.  The frequency extension does not translate into a more forward sonic character, it hasn't created glare, edginess, artificial brightness, or a hardness to the delivery. There is more air now to this region and overall detail.  This detail does not create any hardness or bring to the r.2 an analytical nature. Audeze has described the upper range as more pronounced but I believe they have used the wrong term to describe what has happened in this region.  "More pronounced" can be misconstrued perhaps as forward or aggressive and this is not the case at all.  The upper range is simply more defined now with more access to inner detail. A veil has been lifted and there is more focus and speed to the detail, all of this seems natural and not analytical or cold. 

 

Sonic elements in the upper region are approached with more realism than before. Cymbals, chimes, cowbells, tambourines, are now better represented and reproduced. They have a more natural and metallic shimmer with more air.    The shimmer has quicker speed now and a more effortless and natural deliverance, a more realistic metallic timbre which is fast and delicate as it decays. They are simply more convincing and have more micro dynamics and frequency extension.

 

The r.2 is simply quicker overall.  There is more resolution of low level detail, micro dynamics, and more clarity to the detail which is more accessible and easier to discern giving the r.2 a more effortless sense of delivery. 

 

 This refinement in detail, clarity, micro dynamics, and overall resolution provides the r.2 with better focus, imaging and an improved soundstage.  The soundstage is more dimensional with more apparent depth from front to back and is more layered in it's defining presentation. This improvement comes from the cues derived from the speed of the new drivers. That extra resolution to the low level detail and micro dynamic detail gives instruments more of a physical embodiment, a touch more air around them and a touch more dimensional realism.  These cues allow for that ever small amount of detail to be separated in the soundfield and it adds to the overall realism.  A small triangle in the back of the mix when struck now seems to have more space and air around it and the extra bit of low level detail gives the instrument more of a physical embodiment and location in the space of the soundfield. 

 

Overall the soundstage has improved in dimensionality and seems wider. Not wider in terms of more seemingly extended distance in physical separation of instruments than before but that there no longer seems to be a constriction at the edges as there once was. You don't get that sense that there is something restricting  the edge of the soundstage, truncating it and reflecting it back closing it in. Now the soundstage seems to gently fall away at the edges leaving more of an impression that there is a natural unconstrained space for the instruments and music to sit within rather than be walled in by some sort of containment.   Before this restraint at the edges was a distraction but now with the gentle release at the edges of the soundstage the listener is free to enjoy the soundstage in a more natural presentation.  There is also an improved height to the soundstage as well. 

 

Midrange tonality remains the same but the added resolution has improved its definition and dimensionality.  Bass is a bit deeper and seems to have more extension to its depth than obtrusive amplitude. The entire spectrum seems to have benefited from a little more dynamic low level detail and resolution which adds an extra small amount of realism to the surface of a drum being hit with the drumstick, the pluck of a guitar string, or a cymbal being struck.  Instruments are just a bit more palpable where it counts.  

 

I am enjoying the new leather headband. I do not notice its presence at all while listening and I don't think it adds more weight to the LCD.  The latest LCD comes with the drivers secured with a plastic tie wrap so be forewarned to remove it before you try to adjust the height of the cans.  I didn't see them at first and couldn't figure out for a minute why they would not adjust.  

 

Posted

 

Hello I thought I'd do a short review of the LCD2 since I just got the privilege of giving them an extended audition at home with my own equipment. Equipment used for the audition are:

 

Macbook Pro optical out --> Cambridge Audio DACMagic --> Schiit Asgard --> LCD2

 

For some background on my listening preferences, I own a Sennheiser HD650, an ESW10JPN, and a Fostex T50RP that I have done some damping modifications on. I've heard the HD800, the T1, the HE5, and many other headphones as well. My portable set up is a HM801 with either a Sleek CT6 or Westone UM3X. I've noticed that I dislike over-accentuated treble, and I tend to look out for midrange presence and detail, as well as good bass quality in a headphone. Used to have the RS1 and sold it off because it was too bright for my tastes. I generally listen to jazz, rock, and latin music, and sometimes some classical.

 

Now, I've always been satisfied with my audio set up, especially with the HD650 in my desktop audio chain. Its lush midrange and weighty bass have always impressed me, and I've spent many hundreds of hours with the HD650 on my head. Sure, I wish it had better soundstaging, and I wish the bass went deeper, but they have always been acceptable compromises for me.

 

When I first put the LCD2 on my head and pressed 'Play', the best description of my reaction would be O_O. It was the best headphone I have ever heard, even compared to the T1 powered by the HP4 that I auditioned extensively at Stereo. It wasn't absolutely perfect, but I highly doubt any headphone can be 100% perfect, and generally view comments like "this is the best headph4n3 ev4rr!!" with a considerable amount of skepticism.

 

I'll go into more detail of the LCD2's sound, starting with the bass. The bass goes a lot deeper than the HD650's bass, with about the same quantity. In other words, bass quality is significantly heightened. I cannot adequately describe how REALISTIC the bass is. Percussion instruments are superbly detailed on the LCD2, and I can actually picture the drummer in front of me letting the drums have it. Bass guitars go all the way down and allow me to hear every pluck of the strings. I always thought that the HD650 was pretty good in the bass department, but the LCD2 totally trounces it.

 

The midrange is what I always look out for, and it's absolutely perfect on the LCD2. Remember I said earlier that no headphone is 100% perfect? That merely means that no headphone can get everything absolutely right, but some headphones can certainly achieve perfection in a specific area. To me, the LCD2 achieves absolute perfection in the midrange. I've read with some degree of skepticism about how people feel like singers are singing right in front of them with the LCD2, and guess what, it's ABSOLUTELY TRUE. Voices are perfectly weighted and detail is impeccable. I almost teared listening to Time To Say Goodbye by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli. I have never felt any way like that with a headphone before. Coming from what I thought was a really good midrange on the HD650, this was an utter revelation to me. Not just voices are perfect, pianos are perfect too. On the HD650, I always thought that pianos lacked some detail and were a little 'fuzzy', for lack of a better word. On the LCD2, piano notes were clean, clear, and beautiful and decayed into the background perfectly naturally. Listening to some Bill Evans almost made me tear again. Damn, this is getting embarrassing.

 

Anyway, many people have commented on the highs of the LCD2 being recessed and the weakest point of the headphones. Although I've mentioned that I don't like over-extended treble, treble detail is still important to me and I wouldn't accept a phone that fuzzes up the highs. This is the reason I kind of dislike Denon headphones, I think treble sounds unnatural with them. The HD650 is not known for awesome highs, and I acknowledge that, but they are detailed enough and sound natural to me. With regard to the LCD2, I was happy to find that my fears about its treble were quite unfounded. The treble was clean, detailed, and natural, with good decay and sufficient sparkle. Granted, people who love Grados, Etys, the HE5, and the DT880 may not be entirely satisfied, but I'm sure Senn fans will definitely appreciate the LCD2's detailed and natural treble.

 

Speed is something pretty important to me in a headphone as well, and I acknowledge that the HD650 is not exactly the king of speed. When I heard the LCD2, its speed was a revelation to me, probably because of the nature of its driver technology. Transient response was perfect, and the speed of the drivers allowed each instrument its own space which never faltered even in very busy passages. Playing some Metallica and Arctic Monkeys fast tracks, I was amazed at how the LCD2 was able to deliver all the detail of each instrument even in the busiest passages.

 

The LCD2's soundstage isn't as expansive as the HD800 or T1, but it's enough for me. A 3D soundstage all around one's head is certainly delicious, but it's not really an important factor to me.

 

The biggest problem I have with the LCD2 is its build quality. The one that I tested had the new aluminium blocks and the fabric-sheathed cable, but it still looked pretty... ghetto, to be honest. I wasn't expecting HD800-level build quality, but at the very least, I think the hole in the wooden cups that is connected to the U-shaped metal ring should be reinforced with metal or even plastic. The wood around that area looks a little rough, which is kinda unpleasant in a headphone that costs a significant amount of money.

 

That's the end of the review. It's an amazing headphone, basically. I'm sure Senn fans will not be disappointed with the LCD2 as an upgrade from the HD650. Trebleheads should look elsewhere, but do note that the treble of this headphone is in no way unnaturally recessed, to my ears at least.

 

You can see some pics of the headphones and the original review here. Thanks for reading!

 

http://jaben.net/forums/index.php?topic=17565.0

Posted

Pros: AMAZING CLARITY AND TRANSPARENCY,BASS

Cons: small sound stage, no space and air

LCD2 REVIEW

Once in a great while in my 32 years in the hobby I have seen products come to market that can make a significant change in the way the game is played. Rarely if ever does one come to the market that completely changes the game and rewrites the rules such is the case with the LCD2. Audeze is a start up company that has two passionate owners who have somehow managed to bring to market a product which has challenged the majors in a big time way. The LCD2 is a planar headphone that not only competes with the flagship products offered by Sennheiser and Beyer but in many ways easily outpoints them in many of the categories important to many people who really enjoy music. Alex and Sankar have managed to up the ante and have created what I believe will be a benchmark for others to follow.

 

The hype on Head Fi for this product was very exciting and prompted me to order a pair to see if they met my expectations. They not only met them but exceeded them in some very significant ways. The equipment I have been using to review this product has been my Decware CSP-2 OTL and Matrix Solid state amplifiers with my Marantz DV6001 as my main source for playback of both red book CD’s and SACD disc.  Audioquest Black Mamba interconnects were using during the review process.  Using  various  types of music  from classical, jazz, female and male vocal recordings and some rock for my audition. I used no metal or electronic music. I have had the LCD2 for almost three weeks and now feel comfortable in describing the sound signature. My other two reference headphones are the T1 and Denon D7000.

 

The LCD2 are very transparent and excel with vocal recordings. Listening to female vocalist is a treat and rivals my Maggie MMG for the best vocal reproduction that I have ever experienced. The sound of vocalist and the clarity of which the LCD2 reproduces them has brought me closer to the recording studio. So much that  I envisioned myself there at the event. Diana Krall and Ella Fitzgerald never sounded so good and it really what makes the LCD2 so special. Jazz recordings are best portrayed with this headphone it really does a wonderful job of what you expect from a flagship headphone.

 

Classical recordings showcase the tone of instruments in an accurate way. Violins sound like violins and I can distinguish the difference in violins and cello very clearly. The sound stage in comparison to the T1 is smaller and has less air and space but you can locate the performers in a defined sound stage. Focus is better on the wider sound stage of the T1 but the LCD2 is no slouch in this area. I would have liked to see a wider and deeper sound stage with more focus. I also can get the full bass impact on large symphony recordings as the bass is an area unequalled by any headphone I have heard to date. The LCD2 is very fast in transient response and give you the excitement and slam demanded and needed to reproduce classical music and with all the excitement that makes a great symphony sound so exciting.

 

The bass is very deep and extended. There is no doubt that this is how bass is supposed to be portrayed.  Percussion and drum recording are very exciting to listen to on the LCD2. Drums recordings with brushes is very easily noticed. The LCD2 allow you to hear the sticks hitting the drums and if a congo or bongo instrument you can hear the hands hitting the skins in a very transparent  way. I have not other headphone that can unravel inner detail as well as the lCD2. The treble is also very clearly defined. I hear the correct tone of the cymbal and the proper decay after the drummer strikes it. Treble while being sparkly is still not extended as the T1 which sometimes makes you want more air and space around the instrument. The bass is very special on the LCD2 and will leave  even most bass heads satisfied.

 

The LCD2 hits most of the marks better than most other flagships. Is it better than the other contenders? Some individual will prefer the presentation more others will prefer some of the strong points of other contenders but it is in the same class and in many ways beats the other headphones in important areas. It is worthy of being placed in the same class as the other contenders for best headphone and really when you consider its price it is a bargain.

 

Much has been made about the weight and comfort issues. Make no mistake they are heavy but not what I would call uncomfortable to wear. I have worn these for as much as 12 hours in a day and have experienced no major issue. The headband is unique and different from the other flagship headphones and I would prefer a leather headband similar to my T1 but I have managed to get used to the one supplied. The pads are comfortable and overall the LCD2 is not all that bad for comfort.  This is one area where I would like to see some improvement. The wood cups are Caribbean rosewood and really give a nice finish to the headphone. Build quality is good they are sturdy and the box that they are stored in demands to be shown as it is so beautiful.

 

The amazing clarity and transparency is a notch above my T1 and D7000. The sound signature portrays natural tone and is neither dark nor bright. The midrange is indeed very special.  I did not notice any recessed treble as some have experienced. It plays the recording in a very accurate and precise manner.  It is also very musical and  has never shown any sign of fatigue when I listened  in marathon sessions.

In concluding I would like to say that Alex and Sankar have done an outstanding job with the LCD2 and should be proud of their accomplishment.  The LCD2 has lived up to the hype for me and is part of my daily listening.  I have not regretted buying them nor have I looked to sell them. This headphone will allow me to forget about gear and just enjoy the music which is what the hobby is really about.  Audeze has established itself with the benchmark product and others will need to get much better to compete. You will want to use the best gear you can afford and it really sounded special on the CSP-2 tube amp with vocal and jazz recordings. The SS Matrix gave it the slam and bass drive and power for classical music.  Nice job and beware there is a new kid on the block that has raised the bar that others will now have to follow. A new Star is born..

Posted

Pros: Natural 3D rendering of the performance and the performers. deep detailed bass.

Cons: Not extremely comfortable to wear, at least initially

Immediately, when I put the Audeze LCD-2 on my head, I wasn't floored by the sound. Rather, as my head felt squeezed by a tight clamping force, I was wondering where all the excessive air had gone, that I was used to from the LCD-1. I also missed the pleasantly colored mids of my Yamaha orthodynamic headphone (that I had just sold). But, the LCD-2 have been growing on me for the last week, and the clamp has been softened up, while the pads have gotten more comfy. (To be honest, the initial clamping force is no worse than the terrible clamp of a new Sennheiser HD580)
So, during my time off during the week, I have been enjoying some of my favorite music, on two setups, that are probably unworthy of the LCD-2.


Setup 1: Old Pioneer CD player -> MF XcanV3 hybrid tube headphone amplifier with pinkie psu
Setup 2: Arcam CD73 player -> Old Pioneer A-449 Power amplifier.


Initially, I thought the best thing about the LCD-2 was the deep, yet detailed bass. It was also the most striking difference coming the LCD-2, and the Sennheiser HD580.


But the best part of the LCD-2 to me is how each instrument sounds so natural, and is presented in its own place, in a 3D space. Each instrument and performer can be heard clearly, and yet the music is a whole performance. It is a distinct image, that does not call undue attention to itself. It's unlike the HD800, where at first listen I thought, wow, those instruments and people are far apart on a wide stage.

 

Listening to the F*** Buttons - Bright tomorrow, the deep bass track, like heart beats, is heard clearly despite being placed in the same spot, in the middle, as the melodic noise track. The HD580 in contrast, could not convey the deep bass sufficiently, making the song unengaging. The same goes for Luomo - the present lover, which needs the deep bass drums to balance the soft song and bright instruments.

 

However, listening to an old time favorite of mine, Infinity, by Guru Josh, I noticed that some ambient sounds were lower in volume than I was used to. I am honestly not sure wether the sounds were amplified by the LCD1, or if they are held back by the LCD2 (or by the gear I use with it).

 

I also found the LCD2 to be almost unlistenable when I routed the headphone out of a mac laptop through the xcan. The flaws of the soundcard just ruined the experience like with no other can I have tried, except maybe the old Toshiba HR-X1 electret I used to have.


To sum up, I am really enjoying my music through the LCD-2, even on my more modest setup compared to what some other people here have.

 

Audeze LCD-2

 

 

lcd22.jpg

 

Audeze LCD-2

Audeze LCD2 Planar Magnetic Headphones
By:
Description:

Audeze LCD2 designed for Recording / Mixing Engineers as reference headphones and for audiophiles and music enthusiasts. - Hand selected Caribbean Rosewood ear cups. - Lamb Skin Leather Ear pads. - Audeze’s unique planar magnetic transducer with matched sensitivity. - Mini XLR interchangeable cable. - Easy to drive with amplifiers. - Left and right transducers have matched sensitivity and frequency response. The LCD2 housing is designed and custom built from hand selected Caribbean Rosewood or Bamboo composite. It is built to enhance the quality of the sound and offers a unique coloration and graining. The LCD2 ear pads are designed to optimally recreate the entire pro audio frequency range. The sloped ear pad design allows us to faithfully reproduce the detail and clarity to the bass, midrange and the treble. The ear pads are made of premium lambskin leather with specially selected foam to offer the right amount of firmness.

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